What if I told you that the violence in Ferguson in recent months is not an isolated incident? That it is, in fact, the status quo unmasked? The recent violence in response to Michael Brown’s death has merely exposed a longstanding tradition of structural violence.
In her article “The Violence of the Status Quo”, Pem Davidson Buck states that “we all know the obvious acts of violence backing injustice and inequality in US history. But we know them as isolated factoids, not as part of a larger pattern, a pattern of continuous violence that continues today”. This larger pattern of violence is perpetuated not by outbreaks such as those in Ferguson, or in the systematic alienation of Native Americans in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, or in any other instances of oppression committed by the United States government against its people. It is perpetuated by privilege.
Privilege, although seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of violence, is in fact the basis of structural violence. It is particularly dangerous because, to those who possess it, it is invisible. To those who lack it, it becomes a systematic form of oppression. It is a so-called “hidden violence”. It has created a status quo of invisible structural violence and oppression; invisible, that is, until the events and the people of Ferguson unmasked it.